Hey kids, this side-story contains dark and deadly dealin’s, vile villains, dangerous dames and a heapin’ helpin’ of non-stop Justice! This story ain’t got no time…for crime!

Soon as her eyes caught the light of the dawning sun creeping through holes in her tent, Schicksal threw on her field jacket and pulled up her grey uniform pants and hurried downhill. She just barely heard the trumpeter sounding the morning call for the 8th Panzer Division’s headquarters in Dbagbo, and realized she had preciously little time to lose.

She charged out to the field across the way from the base proper, splashing on the puddles left by the incessant winter rains and slipping and sliding on the muddy road. Bleary-eyed and light-headed, she was determined to be the very first at the pickup point.

There was a delivery quite dear to her heart that was about to arrive.

In order to enjoy her spoils in peace, Schicksal had to beat a certain somebody to it.

Haste prevented her from cleaning herself up much. Her mousy hair was messier than normal, framing her face in a tangle of over-long locks that was starting to pool on her shoulders — she would need a cut soon. Her dull, black eyes were ringed red, both from a failure to sleep and the stress of recent events. A collection of markings adorned her battle dress, ranging from pulled strings to stressed seams and plain open holes.

Looking back over her shoulder made it all worth it; the coast was clear. She would be the first one, and that irascible teenager was probably still in her tent, sucking her thumb.

However, as she reached the bright red signpost that had been hammered down at the road juncture downhill from the base, there was a radiant presence already waiting for the mail cart. Bouncy, wavy shoulder-length gold hair and crystalline eyes adorned a soft-skinned, exceedingly fair face that greeted the disheveled Schicksal with a delicate, maidenly smile.

Guten Morgen!” chirped Noel Skonieczny, clapping his hands softly together.

His delicate frame was expertly clad in his black panzer ace uniform. His face and hair were very clean and shiny, and seemed unaffected by the humidity at all. And he was energetic and aware as ever, almost bouncing in place as Schicksal arrived on the scene.

Schicksal stared at him, her temples throbbing fiercely. In lieu of a guten morgen, she stiffly raised one of her hands and curled the tips of the fingers ever so slightly.

Noel rubbed his palms against one another and smiled sympathetically at her.

“Feeling a little under the weather, lovely lass? Having a rough morning?”

“How do you,” Schicksal tripped over her own words for a moment, “how do you not?”

“Sleep early, wake before the sun. That’s my tonic for good mornings.” Noel proudly said.

Schicksal stared at him incredulously. Perhaps he really was a fairy in the mythological sense.

“What are you expecting in the mail?” Noel asked, leaning forward with his hands behind his back. He flashed a shark-teethed grin for a split-second, as if a demonic aura had overtaken him as he closed in on the radio girl; but the next instant he was his lovely self again, so it must have been Schicksal’s imagination. She pondered how to respond.

“I’m getting some books.” She said. It was not entirely a fib. They were basically books.

“Ah! How lucky~! I have a few magazine subscriptions to collect.” Noel said.

At once, Schicksal dropped her guard. Could Noel also be a reader of popular fictions?

“Oh! Magazines huh? Me too! Those are my books.” Schicksal said. A tired little smile lit up her face. “I didn’t think there were any big subscription-fanatics like myself in the unit.”

“There must be more than just you and I! Magazines are truly a soldier’s literature! Thin, easy to carry, and quick to read. What more could you ask for?” Noel said, smiling.

“You’re right. I guess back home, they’re more of a niche thing.” Schicksal said.

“It depends on what type of magazine; but I’ve always loved them. I used to snatch them off stands — the mail system was too discerning for my hectic youth. It definitely helps to have a stable address to send them to now. Even if that address is just the unit number.”

Schicksal could not discern what he could mean by that last comment. It was too early.

“In any case, I hope you get what you want, Captain Skonieczny.” Schicksal said.

“Please, just call me Noel, while we bask in the glow of cheap paper.” Noel said.

Schicksal nodded weakly. She turned back to the fork in the road past the signpost, feeling more relaxed than before. Perhaps there was a boon to Noel’s flighty presence.

Meter by meter the light of the sun started to rise and filter through the nearby trees.

Soon Schicksal heard the distant sounds of hoof-falls on the dirt. Her body tensed.

She realized that the sound was not coming from further up the road, but behind them.

Almost immediately the stamping on the dirt turned tinny and weak as it grew close.

Schicksal turned her head over her shoulder and grit her teeth and closed her fists.

Approaching the road juncture was a red-headed young girl, lanky, with a sharp nose, high cheekbones and pale-pink skin that gave her a striking appearance. A long white coat draped over her grey fatigues billowed behind her as her feet crashed one after the other on the dirt. Schicksal watched with clear disdain as the girl closed toward them in a big hurry, and bent over, hands on the signpost, gasping for breath once she reached them.

Evangeline Heinrich made a big production of her exhaustion, breathing heavy, clutching her hand between her breasts, knocking her knees together, coughing periodically. Schicksal bought none of the goods she was selling; the teen was being over-dramatic.

After a few moments of retching, Evangeline raised a thumb up into the air.

“I nearly died, but I made it in time for the mail, Chief Signals Officer.” She moaned.

“Ugh! Go away!” Schicksal suddenly shouted. Noel nearly jumped back with surprise.

In an instant, Evangeline went from a picture of illness to a snake coiled for a lunge.

“Why should I? I have just as much a right as any to check the mail.” Evangeline said.

Schicksal sighed. “Really? Then do you have mail coming in at all?” She asked.

Evangeline crossed her arms. “Well; I admit, not that I know of right now, but–”

“Go away then!” Schicksal reiterated. “I know why you’re here! Nosy little brat!”

Noel raised his index finger in confusion amid the cacophony. “Umm–”

“You’re so selfish!” Evangeline shouted back. “The General told you to be nice to me!”

“No he didn’t! In fact he explicitly told you to stop being such a child!” Schicksal said.

“No you need to stop being such a child! Inability to share your things with others is a developmental faculty left behind in kindergarten, Schicksal!” Evangeline shouted back.

That little bit of medical trivia was not appreciated; Schicksal grit her teeth and growled.

Noel crossed his arms and tapped his feet. “Hey, would you two please–”

“What are you even insinuating? If anything it’s a sign of being sick of you and nothing else, you demon spawn!” Schicksal raised her voice even louder to fight back.

“Demon? You hit me once! You hit an underage girl! You’re a demon!” Evangeline said.

Schicksal was taken aback. “I didn’t hit you! I grabbed and shook you!” She shouted.

“There is no nuance to your crime! You are a horrible person, Karla Schicksal! I will tell everyone in the world how horrible and terrible you are unless you share your books!”

Noel suddenly darted in between the two girls with an exasperated look in his eyes.

“All of this acrimony is quite unbecoming of maidens such as yourselves!” Noel said.

Schicksal and Evangeline paused their bickering to give the Captain an incisive stare.

“And what would you know about that, hmm?” Evangeline shouted at him.

Noel gave her such an intense glare in response that the teen was startled to silence.

“Stay out of this, it’s between me and this stretched-out brat!” Schicksal shouted.

At once Noel’s glare turned to her and she shrank back from the vehemence in his eyes.

“As the ranking officer here; Schicksal, just accommodate her for goodness’ sakes’, she’s a child. And Heinrich, stop accosting Schicksal. Respect your superiors!” He shouted.

Evangeline and Schicksal both deployed their own dull-eyed, weary glares upon Noel.

“You sound just like General Dreschner.” Evangeline said in a low voice.

“He does. It’s almost like the General is here in spirit.” Schicksal mumbled.

Noel frowned pointedly at the two of them.

Before any additional verbal salvo could be launched, the genuine hoof-falls of the mail horse and the cranking of the mail-cart’s wooden wheels sounded from the road ahead. Everyone’s heads turned. Morale returned to the group once the horses became visible, pulling the cart up the road, off the dirt and settling beside the trees. Windows opened on all sides of the cart, and a young man stood up and began to hand out packages.

Excited, the trio put their differences aside and lined up at the cart.

Few people joined Schicksal, Evangeline and Noel; they were ahead of the line and almost alone in it, and quickly made off with their mail. In a little hill just off the road, under the intermittent shade of a teak tree, Noel and Schicksal reconvened to inspect the week’s spoils. Evangeline followed closely, trying to peek around their shoulders.

“You go first! I’m curious what the mysterious Siren likes to read.” Noel said with a grin.

Schicksal gulped. “Um, no, you go first! Gentlemen should go first, you know. Right?”

“Huh? Don’t ladies usually go first? Hmm; actually, you are correct either way. I’ll go first.”

Smiling, Noel popped open the box he had been given at the cart, and cast into the air several bundles of old newspaper cushioning. Wrapped in foil, which he gracefully ripped open, was a stack of about a dozen thin paper magazines with colorful covers.

Schicksal flipped through them desperately, growing more speechless with each.

Several of the magazines depicted reserved, elegant women in beautiful gowns and dresses, ranging from filmy evening wear that hinted at the round shadow of a pair of breasts through sheer black fabric, to dazzling red cocktail dresses that blinded the eye with golden lace trim and scrunchy, complicated skirts. One magazine boasted that the flapper look was “fated to return” and led with flapper tips; another flashy book, Succubus magazine, purported to teach within its pages, “one weird trick to keep your man coming back.”

Schicksal’s blood drained from her face. All of Noel’s books were hip girl’s magazines.

“Please don’t tell anyone about that last one, it might be too scandalous for the puritans among our ranks. It talks very frankly about sex.” Noel said, winking at Schicksal.

That was the least of Schicksal’s concerns. Holding the magazines, she felt like the absolute squarest woman on the planet; she was so square she could practically be bolted onto the Befehlspanzer as an extra armor kit. She had thought there were still flappers around, but suddenly they had vanished long enough to now be poised to return? And all of the women on the covers looked supernaturally stylish in the same way Noel did and Schicksal didn’t.

How was Noel such a fashionable person? How was she so unfashionable?

Worse still, Noel was probably too happening to care about pulp magazines!

She would look like an utter baby if she showed him the funny books!

“I see you are transfixed with them! They’re always on top of new trends.” Noel said.

Schicksal nodded dumbly, pretending to flip through Succubus magazine and blushing fiercely beet-red whenever she caught sight of the erotic illustrations within its pages.

For her part, Evangeline seemed completely unperturbed by Noel’s subscriptions.

“My mom was a flapper back when it was new.” She said, looking idly at a magazine.

“Flapping will never die.” Noel said matter-of-factly, crossing his arms over his chest.

Schicksal returned the magazines and then stood shaking in place, holding her own package in a vice-like grip. She felt she had truly ran herself into a corner this time.

Her mind started digging in concrete for excuses, however weak, to avoid having to–

“Schicksal, I want to see the new Tales issue! Open it up!” Evangeline said.

“Shut up!” Schicksal snapped back, raising the box suddenly over her head.

Noel’s eyes narrowed. He delivered that deadly glare from before against Schicksal.

“Ahem,” Noel cleared his throat, “please be gentle with our medic, Schicksal.”

Schicksal set the box back down. She sighed deeply; like pulling a bandage from a painful scab, she ripped the box open in one quick motion and without looking at it. Evangeline then practically lunged at her, and pulled out the offending material without regard for the atmosphere. She tore the foil away and then stuck her tongue out in disgust at the cover.

“Ugh. Ugh!” Evangeline turned her cheek on the latest issue of Astonishing Tales!

Noel looked over her shoulder, while Schicksal stood frozen with the box still in hand.

“Oh, huh, that’s a pulp book, isn’t it? Who’s the handsome man on the cover?” He asked.

“It’s just Johannes Jager.” Evangeline said in a dismissive tone of voice. “Again.”

She thrust the magazine toward Noel like it was a filthy thing, and sulked openly.

Noel flipped through a few pages. Schicksal got to see the cover between his fingers.

It was Johannes Jager alright, dressed in his flashy white uniform, cape, hat and mask, aiming a firearm through a broken window and toward a danger invisible to the reader. Much like in the past few issues the front cover promised twenty action-packed pages, in addition to six new half-page illustrations, along with a new contest (details inside) and the announcement of a paperback release. It was a very Jager-centric issue.

Schicksal wearily stared from the cover to the Captain’s face, anticipating disdain and mockery. She was surprised to find Noel lighting up with a gentle smile as he inspected the book. “It’s so nostalgic! It reminds me of the funny books I used to steal as a kid.”

“Well, actually, Noel, funny books are different from magazines like Tales, which are considered adventure books.” Schicksal said meekly, unable to resist correcting him.

Noel nodded his head idly and turned the book around, pointing to the cover illustration.

“Hey, would you mind reading this guy’s story to me? He looks cute.” Noel said.

It was an odd request and phrased in an odd way. It didn’t sit right with her at all.

“Cute? Johannes Jager is a rugged exemplar of justice, is what he is!” Schicksal replied.

Noel grinned that shark-like grin of his once more. “Do go on.” He said in a sultry voice.

Schicksal felt oddly flustered. “I’ll read it if you stop talking like that about him.”


“Hey! Wait!”

Evangeline jumped in from the sidelines, her hands balled up into fists, her feet stomping.

“Read Secret Man too! Read Secret Man to me Schicksal! Or just let me borrow it after and read it myself! Then I promise I’ll forgive you for that time you hit me.” She said.

“I don’t care if you forgive me or not.” Schicksal said. “But fine, whatever, I’ll read it too.”

Evangeline clapped her hands. Her protests and demands vanished in childish glee.

Accommodating her certainly worked wonders sometimes.

Schicksal sat down with her back to the teak tree, and raised the magazine to her face.

She flipped through the first few pages and got to Johannes Jager. Noel and Evangeline sat at her sides, looking over at the pictures and perking their ears up to hear her narration. With everyone ready, Schicksal took in a breath and began to read the story.

In the pitch-black of Rhinea’s haunting nights, Johannes Jager hunted for his prey. All around him the dark screamed of Dangers, and lent its vicious bosoms to succor his Foes. But it was a different beast that he hunted today: not an opium pusher or a murderer or a robber or a communist, but a thief. But not any thief: a thief on a Grand and Deadly scale!

Though the night would spring every trap in its bag to protect its own, our white-clad crusader was not beguiled by the black-clad shadows. With his signature cap and cape, with his many tools in his snow-white jacket, Johannes Jager plunged ahead. Nothing would turn him from his Righteous course! Justice burnt in his chest and vengeance sang in the wake of his footfalls as he trudged through the snow-covered main streets of the city.

These should have been the paths most shining with the Light of the freest nation on Aer; but the world of 2042 was not so right and not so simple anymore. Deadly dealings and dirty money were hidden here in plain sight. Under the ignorant eyes of Nocht’s day-walking innocents, festered a Rapacious criminal world that had already thieved too much!

“I remember too clearly the day when the Syndicate took my Mother, and then my Sister, and then my soon-to-be-bride. Never again!” thought Johannes Jager, as he charged forth to inflict Morality on this debauched night. He had to do what he must; what was Right!

On this night Johannes Jager would not trawl the alleys, but the heart of the city, where hard-working working class men made their marks through their hard work; but as Johannes learned on his last outing, their hard work was being Compromised, as were their Marks! Johannes Jager flitted through the dark toward an imposing warehouse, tall and brutal, with broken windows and a barren yard, fenced off, perhaps condemned. But not unoccupied.

From the snowbank straddling the warehouse grounds, Jager saw light flickering behind a window! He stole from the snowbank, through a hole slashed at the bottom of the fence, and took cover behind a stack of empty barrels. He peered through the ground floor windows and found nothing inside but the midnight dark. He had to go higher.

So he steeled himself, and clambered up the wobbling barrels, his footing insured by his indomitable will, and leaped through the window once he made it atop. He withdrew his trusty zwitscherer pistol, entrusted to him by his dead captain in the Force, and drew the weapon — on thin air! There was a candle, and a complicated machine, all left alone in a barren room on the warehouse’s vast and empty second floor. Not a soul breathed inside.

Until a door slammed open behind our hero unexpectedly!

Jager spun like a bullet and turned his gun on the door.

There he found not the foes he sought, but a surprising ally!

It was the fresh-faced young cadet from the police academy, Jonas Edelweiss! He raised his hands when Jager held him up, and relaxed once our hero stowed his weapon. The boy was breathing heavily, having clearly ran a marathon to meet him  — but how? Jager had received information of a printing operation in this place. How did Edelweiss know?

“There’s no time Johannes! You’ve been set up! The Syndicate has planted a bomb here! They are taking their stock to the docks and pushing it out of reach!” Jonas shouted.

Instantly Johannes Jager knew where that bomb was — inside the machine, a printing press, stripped of its precious, stolen printing irons and innocently left behind as if by carelessness rather than Contrivance! He could almost feel the black beating heart of the Bomb ticking and ticking in the bowels of the machine! Without a moment to spare, Jager threw himself forward, taking Edelweiss in his arms and rolling down the stairs in one acrobatic leap!

Behind him blossomed a hungry flower of flames that swept across the warehouse! Johannes Jager rolled down the steps, the heat of the flames and the shock of the explosion propelling him through a fire escape window set against the staircase landing! With Edelweiss in his arms, Jager hit the snow-covered ground, safe as the fires hungrily devoured the warehouse and any remaining evidence of wrongdoing with it!

“Thanks for the warning, kid. Kept me from cookin’.” Johannes Jager said.

Edelweiss nodded his head and pointed out to the street. “There’s no time to lose Jager! I have a car we can take to the docks. Don’t ask how I got this info, but we gotta hurry!”

Johannes smelled Trouble all over this — trouble Edelweiss had gotten himself into. But the boy had a good heart, and he had risked his Life to save Jager’s. Trusting his guts, Jager extended the same trust to Edelweiss and followed the young lad out to his car.

They rushed up the street, and around a corner, where Edelweiss had hidden his vehicle in an alley. As he grabbed his keys and fumbled with the door, Johannes heard the sound of an engine in the distance, and knew then that they would not yet have a respite from Evil!

“Get in!” Edelweiss called out, and they hurried into the car. Edelweiss turned his key, hit the accelerator and darted out of the alleyway and down the warehouses. From behind, thin and long and bright beams of light from a pair of headlights almost blinded them!

Suddenly a truck revealed itself, sleek and black, with windows tinted so that its driver could not be seen, and a raised canopy blocking any view of its cargo. Putting all of its horsepower into the pursuit, the truck chased Edelweiss and Johannes down the broad warehouse streets. Edelweiss pounded the gas pedal to the very bottom of the car floor, and it was all he could do to keep ahead of his menacing Foe, persisting in its deadly chase!

“Keep ahead of him, kid; I’ll give the driver a big red light for you.” Jager said.

Rolling down the window, Johannes Jager drew his pistol, leaned out of the passenger seat, and popped three shots at the pursuing truck. He hit a headlight and put it out, but the body and windows resisted his furious blows — bulletproof glass and an armored body!

Our hero’s detective intuition immediately discerned the true Nature of the foe!

“Edelweiss, evasive maneuvers, that car is Not A Car!” Johannes Jager alerted his driver.

As if aware that its deadly ruse had been discerned, the so-called “truck” behind our hero suddenly shed its canopy and revealed a hidden tank gun of a deadly fifty millimeters of shooting caliber affixed to the bed, peering over the cab to spit its deadly fire!

This was no truck, but an armored car! Bristling with armor and weapons, it surged forth!

Edelweiss gasped as he spotted the implement, and veered the car toward the street, smashing through a newspaper box to avoid a blazing shot from the vile enemy that crashed past them and smashed apart a fire hydrant! Desperately swinging the steering wheel, Edelweiss forced the car off the street and across the road once more, steering around a light post to avoid another deadly attack. Behind them the tank-car continued its pursuit, smoke billowing the red-hot barrel of its gun as it prepared for another swing.

“Johannes, I can’t shake them like this! You have to do Something!” Edelweiss shouted.

Johannes Jager leaned out of the car again, watching the gun barrel for the next shot. It flashed, and the gigantic bullet flew past the car, close enough to slice off one of Edelweiss’ side mirrors and briefly disorient him! But Jager had his Plan clear in mind now!

“Keep it steady kid, I’m gonna give our chances of survival…a shot in the arm.”

Edelweiss gulped down his fear and hit the brakes.

Johannes Jager aimed his gun just as he anticipated the next flash of the cannon.

He fired one perfectly aimed shot into the deadly gun barrel!

Therein the small but fast and true bullet of his Zwitcherer pistol fouled the internal workings of the cannon, and interfered with the next shot just as the evil gunners were taking it! Everything happened in the blink of an eye: in a bright pillar of flames the truck exploded and rocketed toward the sky, coming back down in pieces of scorched debris!

“Even with all that armor you still had a…glass jaw.” Johannes said, grinning proudly.

Edelweiss laughed and picked up speed once again.

Within minutes they made it to the sea, travelling down the container parks built around the docks and their own storage warehouses. They left the car behind, and though he had reservations about endangering the boy, Johannes Jager nonetheless followed Edelweiss through the dark and devilish docks. Though not nearly as adept at stealth or combat as Jager, the boy knew where the Foul meeting of the Syndicate would take place.

Johannes Jager thought to himself that he still did not know where the young lad had acquired this Dangerous information, that surely only members of the Syndicate could have known, for the Syndicate was as secretive and guarded as it was greedy and powerful.

But he trusted Edelweiss, who as a Cadet and therefore a burgeoning Force For Good.

Crawling through the seaside paths they found a sinister building near the fisherman’s pier at the far edge of the docks, where the concrete ceded space to rocky beaches and slushy waters. Johannes commanded Edelweiss to stay behind and play lookout, while he stalked ahead, using the crates to cover his brilliant white-clad form as he approached a meeting of several Armed Thugs, hurriedly stashing evidence of their misdeeds into crates and bags.

Johannes Jager peered over a barrel, and saw It, the evidence he knew he would find this night: mounds and mounds of counterfeit Republiksmark bills ready to ship out to Bhakor!

And that was not all! He found in the hands of one of the villains, the silver printing plates used to create these Official marks for Unofficial purpose! And that villain holding them was none other than his vile nemesis, The Blacksmith! Known as such for his “forging” ways, the burly, black apron clad man in his signature welding mask, was adept at counterfeiting, bootlegging, and other disruptive schemes that tarnished the innocent Free Market!

His heart burning with the fierce anger of Vengeance, Johannes Jager steeled himself for battle. Knowing that he had to take the Blacksmith alive in order to find information about the dreaded Syndicate, Jager planned his attack, scanning the surroundings for every possible advantage. His eyes darted to a red canister on the far wall — a fire extinguisher!

“Men, gather the marks, and be quick, we do not want to be late,” shouted the Blacksmith in a grainy, low, machine-like voice through his welding mask, “the sooner we embark for the islands, the sooner we will reap massive profits from nothing but cheap paper and–”

Suddenly Johannes Jager leaped atop the barrel, interrupting the Blacksmith’s speech, and took a well-aimed shot at the fire extinguisher! Under this vicious assault, the extinguisher exploded! Metal and fire sprayed over the Armed Thugs and threw them bloodily over the mounds of paper marks. But the Blacksmith was unharmed! Charging into the fray, the villain drew his vicious hammer and swept toward Johannes Jager with an eye to kill!

“JAGEEEEEEEEEEEER!” He shouted, swinging his arms like a blunt knife blender!

“Sorry Blacksmith, but I ain’t got no time…for crime!”

Johannes Jager was not intimidated. Coolly he dashed toward the Blacksmith, and leaped over him, stepping on the man’s shoulders and away from his swing, and dropping behind him. With a deft sweep of his leg, Johannes Jager knocked the Blacksmith to the ground, and pinned him aground, applying the Long Arm of the Law to the man’s neck!

“Give it up Blacksmith!” Jager shouted, “Your iron’s hammered! You’d best start talkin’ about the Syndicate, or I’ll toss you into the sea to freeze! I’ve got no mercy for filth like you!”

As if unharmed and unapprehended, the Blacksmith burst into vicious laughter!

“Jager, it’s your white caped goose that’s cooked now! You think I’m stupid? You think we’re stupid? The Syndicate does not do anything without a Plan B. Boy, come out!”

Johannes Jager felt the cold sting of Betrayal as Edelweiss emerged from the shadows, pointing a revolver at Johannes Jager! He had a look of anguish on his face as he cocked the hammer, but Jager knew that the boy was Determined to carry out this vile fiend’s orders if necessary, and that he would shoot, for some reason that the caped knight of Nochtish justice could not understand! Where had this promising young cadet gone wrong? Why would he take orders from a monstrous pig like the Blacksmith, who did Evil?

These questions and many more questions jumped around inside Johannes’ Jager’s head, but he did as the situation demanded, and he begrudingly raised his arms from the blacksmith, and raised his arms into the air and stood. He threw a glare at Edelweiss, burning intensely with the justice that could not now be done due to the boy’s foolishness!

“I’m sorry Jager; they have my fiance! I can’t let anything happen to her. I love her!”

Of course, a dame; it was always a dame in this world of Sins. But Johannes Jager found that he could not fault the kid for his choices. If there was anything a red-blooded man had to fight for in the world it was his own deadly dame. If it would have brought back his gal, Johannes would’ve done anything, even the vilest and lowest of things, such as working for the very Syndicate that killed her! More than anyone here Johannes understood this cruel fate. As the Blacksmith gloated behind them, Jager contemplated the tragedy here.

He gave the boy a look of the utmost sympathy. “I understand kid. Do you what you gotta do for your dame. But know this…for the dames I’ve lost, I’ve gotta do what is Right.”

“You can do nothing, Jager!” shouted the Blacksmith, his metallic voice straining, “My masters knew you were snooping around, so they turned once again to the best tactic for defeating you! They took an innocent, and turned them against you, making you helpless! Now not only will I profit from my scheme, I will deliver you to the Syndicate, and become part of the Inner Circle! I will be the bootleg that’s become better than the real thing!”

Edelweiss turned his head in disgust at himself and what he Had To Do; while Jager scowled with hatred for this villain, and thought about What Is Right; and the Blacksmith with his dark iron heart, cackled maniacally over what he Had Done! How will Johannes Jager possibly escape from this predicament? Find out in the next issue of Astonishing Tales!

“Wow! What an issue!” Schicksal said, her mouth left agape, her eyes spread wide. Her heart beat quickly, full of emotion for the hero Johannes Jager and the sense of loss and justice that was intrinsically tied up in him. Her head was red-hot with anticipation and excitement.

At her side, Noel glanced at the pages with a mixture of bewilderment and disgust.

Evangeline stared at her own knees and rocked in place until the conclusion.

Shortly after the very last words were said, she threw her arms around Schicksal.

“Ok now read Secret-Man! Read Secret-Man Schicksal!” Evangeline demanded.

Schicksal shoved her away and grunted.

She started to flip the pages begrudgingly to Secret-Man.

Noel raised his hands in response. “I’m going to pass on that one, thank you.”

“You didn’t like Johannes Jager?” Schicksal said, her eyes drawing wide.

“It was certainly, um, unique.” Noel replied. “But not my cup of lager.”

“Oh c’mon!” Schicksal said, exasperated at last with the poor taste of her companions. “Tell me one thing Johannes Jager does wrong as a story, name one, Noel!”

“Crappy one-liners.” Evangeline interjected.

Noel shrugged apathetically.

He stood up from their side, took his box, and walked away with his head held high.

Schicksal grunted once more. “Hmph! What a fuddy-duddy. Can’t appreciate the greats. Right Evangeline? Show me one man not up for the testosterone-fueled adventures of–”

“I don’t blame him for hating Johannes Jager. You should’ve shown him Secret-Man.”

It took all of Schicksal’s willpower not to stuff the magazine down Evangeline’s throat.

“Be quiet if you want to listen to your childish, plebeian filth!” Schicksal shouted.

Grumbling, she began to read again. Evangeline shrugged and rested her head on Schicksal’s shoulder while the latter narrated the heady adventures of the Secret-Man.

All the while Schicksal felt extremely disgruntled with her so-called fellow soldiers.

Nobody in this entire Division had any taste for a manly, dame-mourning adventure.

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